Get Qantas Gold-grade frequent flyer status with just one trip

By Chris Chamberlin, March 4 2016
Get Qantas Gold-grade frequent flyer status with just one trip

You want frequent flyer status and all the perks that come with it, such as access to business class lounges, priority check-in and a boosted baggage allowance, even when flying in economy.

But you could do without flying all those bum-numbing miles just to pocket that shiny piece of plastic.

So here's a welcome shortcut: a special 'status challenge' promotion through which you can get Gold-grade frequent flyer status on a single international trip.

The airline offering this fast-track deal is American Airlines, with the prize of Platinum status in AA's AAdvantage frequent flyer scheme.

But because American Airlines is a Qantas partner and part of the Oneworld airline group, your status is mirrored across dozens of airlines – so you enjoy perks on all those airlines too.

AAdvantage Platinum members can access the Qantas Hong Kong lounge...
AAdvantage Platinum members can access the Qantas Hong Kong lounge...

AAdvantage Platinum status is equivalent to Gold with Qantas, Cathay Pacific and Malaysia Airlines, and Silver with British Airways for example.

(Across the entire Oneworld alliance, AAdvantage Platinum counts as a Sapphire tier to ensure your recognition as you travel the world.)

Sound good? Here's how it's done...

Status Challenge 101

A 'status challenge' is a fast-track to an elite frequent flyer tier.

Rather than qualifying for that status in the usual way of clocking up many flights, a status challenge lowers the requirements for that tier so that a lot less flying is needed.

If you're just starting to travel for work or are tired of sitting out in the terminal before your flights, completing a challenge is just the ticket for lounge access and more.

It's also a good option to have up your sleeve if you'll be moving airlines or alliances, such from Star Alliance airlines like Singapore Airlines and Thai Airways, to Oneworld carriers such as Qantas, Japan Airlines, Cathay Pacific and Malaysia Airlines.

(The 'challenge' concept is vastly different to the more common 'status match', whereby if you have an existing Gold or Platinum frequent flyer card with one airline, a competing airline may offer you instant Gold or Platinum status in their own frequent flyer program to entice you across.)

The AAdvantage Platinum status challenge: what you get

Whether flying with Qantas, American Airlines, Cathay Pacific or indeed any airline that's part of the Oneworld family, your journey begins with access to airport business class lounges wherever available, even when you're booked in economy. 

Add to that: priority check-in and boarding via the business class lanes with Oneworld airlines, priority security screening prior to Qantas' Australian domestic flights and two free checked bags on American Airlines flights, even if your ticket doesn't include a baggage allowance.

Many airlines also reserve more favourable seats for Oneworld Sapphire frequent flyer members. For example, AAdvantage Platinum members can select extra-legroom 'Main Cabin Extra' seats at no charge on AA, with extra legroom seats also up for grabs on most Qantas domestic flights.

... and what you don't get

Just remember that AAdvantage Platinum is comparable to Qantas Gold, not Qantas Platinum, so you're a step down from that top rung on the Qantas Frequent Flyer ladder.

You also won't have lounge access in North America when travelling solely on a US domestic or short-haul itinerary.

For example, you'd have access to the American Airlines Admirals Club at LAX prior to AA's Los Angeles-Sydney flights or when connecting from the same, but if you were taking a standalone LAX-San Francisco flight, you'd be without a lounge.

Requesting your AAdvantage Platinum challenge

If you’re not already a member of AA’s AAdvantage frequent flyer program, sign up for free via the AA website and make a note of your membership number.

Then, give the USA AAdvantage team a call on +1 800 882-8880 (international call charges apply) between 1am and 12pm Sydney time (8am-7pm USA Central Time), Monday to Friday.

(American Airlines does have an Australian phone service but we've found the staff on the other end to be completely unaware of the fast-track deal, whereas the USA call centre staff proved much more knowledgeable.)

Provide your AAdvantage membership number to the automated voice service, ask for the "Platinum status challenge" when prompted and then say "speak to a representative" to get through to a real person.

The challenge attracts a non-refundable enrolment fee of US$200 (A$280).

After that, all you need to do is earn 12,500 of AA's special 'elite-qualifying miles' (EQMs) within 90 days on selected airlines – and AAdvantage Platinum / Oneworld Sapphire status is yours for a whole year.

Earning your AAdvantage Platinum EQMs

American Airlines elite-qualifying miles are similar to Qantas status credits – it's the 'currency' which AA uses to determine your frequent flyer status.

You can earn elite-qualifying miles on Qantas flights, at a rate of 1.5 EQMs per mile flown in Qantas first class, business class and premium economy, and up to 1 EQM per mile flown in economy:

To save you calculating the actual flight mileage: one return business class trip from Sydney to Asia or beyond – including the Americas, the Middle East and South Africa – earns all the EQMs you’ll need for Platinum status, and then some.

Stuck down the back? One Qantas return trip from Sydney to Los Angeles on the most flexible economy tickets would also do the trick, as would two returns on the same route on most other Qantas economy fares.

Better yet, take your Sydney-Los Angeles flight with American Airlines and you could notch up enough EQMs on any paid ticket – even the least expensive economy seat – to reach your AA Platinum / Oneworld Sapphire target:

Flights on British Airways, Finnair, Iberia and Japan Airlines also count towards your EQM tally, although not all Oneworld airlines qualify as part of the challenge mechanism – Cathay Pacific, Malaysia Airlines and Qatar Airways are notable exceptions.

However, once you've hit the target and have unlocked your AAdvantage Platinum / Oneworld Sapphire status, you've unlocked perks across every Oneworld airline.

Also read: Qatar Airways: double points, Oneworld Sapphire fast-track

Follow Australian Business Traveller on Twitter: we're @AusBT

Chris Chamberlin

A Brisbane-based contributor to Executive Traveller, Chris Chamberlin lives by the motto that a journey of a thousand miles begins not just with a single step, but also a strong latte, a theatre ticket, and later in the day, a good gin and tonic.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

26 Aug 2015

Total posts 3

Flying Air Berlin FRA-BNE next month. Would an Air Berlin (or other one world other than Cx/Mh) operated flight qualify for miles or is the flight requried to be under an American flight number/booking.


Hi bigkev, as per the article, only flights on Qantas, American Airlines, British Airways, Finnair, Iberia and Japan Airlines flight numbers qualify for the fast-track deal, although once you've qualified for Platinum (Oneworld Sapphire), the status is then valid across the whole of Oneworld including with Airberlin, Cathay Pacific and Malaysia Airlines etc.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 Nov 2014

Total posts 5

Great Article, Flying Mel - LAX  Jul 17,  Business sale fare purchased in 2015... current Bronze member with OA / Qantas. Will this bump me up to Gold Status given the upcomming flight?

Many Thanks

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

04 Mar 2016

Total posts 1

very interesting!  

A question about the qualifying miles - I assume that Qantas/Emirites flights bought solely with Qantas points are ineligible, is that right? 

Yep, award flights don't earn anything

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

27 Jan 2016

Total posts 2

Cool! Any idea for how long this offer is going to be open for?

If we knew that, it'd be in the article – so if you were thinking about enrolling, sooner rather than later is best. :)

02 Aug 2015

Total posts 2

Hi Chris,

Thanks for the article. Is there a way to maintain this status after 12 months? 

Hi topgun, after 12 months the normal rules of AAdvantage apply. For more information, please see:


08 Mar 2016

Total posts 1

There is a catch:-

From flyertalk forum: "Start prior to 16 June 2016, status is good through 28 Feb 2017; start 16 June or after, status is good through 31 Jan 2018."

So if you start the challenge before 16 June 2016, the status earned will expire on 28 Feb 2017 (less than 1 year)...

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

26 Feb 2016

Total posts 101

Having the status is not hard, but it can be distressful to keep it for the other years. The three alliances all have pretty tough rules to keep the 3P+L (priority check-in, boarding and luggage , plus lounge access) status -- around four or five Y-class SYD-LAX return (7 to 11 flights x 7900 miles), or double it on saver tickets. So, at least AU$6,000 spent on airfares every year. 

03 Jun 2016

Total posts 2



Just a question about Elite Qulifying miles (EQM), on this article , it mentioned about from 2nd half of 2016, EQM earned will be based on dollars spent not distance flown on American airline, so I suppose if you fly Qantas from Melbourne to Hong Kong return on premiun economy will still be eligible and able to pocket in at least 12,000 EQM (ie MEL to HK distance 4,574 miles x 2 * 1.5 EQM/miles flown= 13,722 EQM). 

On the other hand if you fly AA from July 2016, you will only receive 6-7K EQM based on the dollar spent on the same class fare as above...

I hope I understand this correct and please have your thoughts input if interested.. 

03 Jun 2016

Total posts 2

here is the link if above does not work


22 Jun 2016

Total posts 1

Is this currently relevant? As I'm about to book a work trip through Dallas.

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